After the highs of beating the Benin Republic and Lesotho over three days, scoring four goals, conceding none, and helping Nigeria clinch the ticket to the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, Super Eagles stars return to their clubs to play key roles as the season enters its business end.
With Ahmed Musa still without a club and the trio of Abia Warriors’ Adekunle Adeleke, Enyimba’s John Noble, and Iwuala Anayo based in the NPFL, 20 of the 24 invited Super Eagles players could feature for their clubs this weekend.
Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons takes a peep at the five who could have a big say in how their teams perform after the international break.
Kelechi Iheanacho: Leicester City vs Manchester City
Venue: King Power Stadium
Time: Saturday, 5:30 pm
Iheanacho has been one of the most exciting strikers in England in recent weeks, contributing eight goals (seven goals, one assist) in his last four games in all competitions for Leicester City.
Brendan Rodgers could be tempted to start the Nigerian against his former club alongside Jamie Vardy, as the Foxes look to make it a double over the league leaders.
Third place Leicester City thrashed Pep Guardiola’s side 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium early in the season. After helping Nigeria win over the Benin Republic and Lesotho, the 24-year-old could be in killer mode on Saturday at the King Power Stadium.
Samuel Chukwueze, Granada vs. Villarreal
Venue: Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes
Time: Saturday, 1:00 pm
Seventh place Villarreal have the chance to power into the top five with a victory at Granada this weekend, and Nigeria’s flying winger Samuel Chukwueze could be crucial to achieving that objective.
The 21-year-old, who started both of Nigeria’s Afcon qualifiers, has hit top gear since returning from surgery in February.
Despite managing only one assist, Chukwueze has been involved in each of the Yellow Submarines’ last four victories in La Liga and Europe.
And after another impressive outing for the Super Eagles, Unai Emery can count on the former Golden Eagle’s hero to do the damage against Granada.
Victor Osimhen, Simy Nwankwo: Napoli vs Crotone
Venue: Diego Armando Maradona Stadium
Time: Saturday, 2:00 pm
A clash between the most expensive ever African transfer and the most prolific Nigerian in Serie A history awaits when Napoli hosts Crotone tomorrow.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men can end the day above Juventus in third place with a victory over Crotone, and it could be Victor Osimhen’s chance to add to his three league goals.
The former Lille man finished the Afcon qualifying rounds with five goals and scored the opener against Lesotho on Tuesday. He could cap a fantastic week with a strike against the league’s basement club.
Crotone are doomed for relegation, but Simy Nwankwo has been their one shining light, with the Nigerian forward’s 13 Serie A goals the seventh highest in Italy this term.
But even his killer boots may not save Crotone at Napoli this weekend.
Maduka Okoye, Sparta Rotterdam vs. PEC Zwolle
Venue: Sparta Stadion
Time Saturday, 8:00 pm
It is now two consecutive clean sheets in the green-and-white colours for Maduka Okoye after the young goalkeeper helped Nigeria to a 1-0 win over the Benin Republic in Porto Novo last Saturday.
The former Fortuna Dusseldorf starlet was rested for Francis Uzoho against Lesotho. Still, he has done no harm this time (remember that 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone in November) to his profile as the Super Eagles’ number one.
And Okoye would have to be at his best when Sparta host PEC Zwolle if Henk Fraser’s men want to avenge an ugly 4-0 defeat to the same side when they met earlier in the season.
Ola Aina: Aston Villa vs. Fulham
Venue: Villa Park
Time: Sunday, 4.30 pm
Ola Aina returns to England after playing his part in Nigeria’s Afcon qualification and could be immediately thrown into the deep end as Fulham face another crucial away clash.
Scott Parker’s men, sitting on the 18th position on the EPL table, are battling against relegation, and they cannot afford another loss at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Aina has been a mainstay at fullback for the strugglers, and he should be back in the lineup as Fulham look to claw their way to safety with a win over 10th placed Villa.